Ukraine film with gay hero prompts praise and protest

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In a new comedy film that challenges Ukraine’s lingering homophobia, an activist reassures a bewildered family hosting him, saying: “I’m gay, not a Martian.”

The film, “Lessons in Tolerance”, shows what happens when a family with knee-jerk anti-gay views agrees to take part in a government programme for European integration.

In return for cheaper energy bills, they have to host a gay man for three weeks as he attempts to change their attitudes.

The premise may be absurd, but it reflects real efforts to shift ingrained prejudices against LGBTQ people and tackle discrimination as Ukraine seeks EU membership.

The war has also spurred Ukraine to differentiate itself from ex-Soviet neighbour Russia, which bans LGBTQ “propaganda”.

The country’s state cinema agency helped finance the low-budget film shot during the war, giving it around $81,000.

But in a sign that homophobia remains a live issue, activists from ultra-nationalist groups including Prava Molod (Right Youth) have picketed screenings in the eastern city of Kharkiv and in Kyiv, chanting, “Money for the army not to LGBT propaganda!”

A masked attacker sprayed hostile graffiti including an Orthodox cross and neo-Nazi symbols on the capital’s October cinema when it put up posters for the film.

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